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For the first time in 46 years, Dick Knar had no use for his whistle.
"I opened my drawer the other day and saw my whistle in there and it was weird for a minute," Knar said. "It was like, 'Oh yeah, I don't need that anymore.' "
On Sunday, Knar announced at the conclusion of his team's end-of-season banquet that he would be retiring as the boys varsity basketball coach at Mundelein High School. Knar completed his 16th season overall and his ninth season at Mundelein earlier this month with the sixth regional championship of his career.
The 49-year-old Knar, who got his first whistle at age 3 and used it liberally at the practices conducted by his father Richard, a longtime high school and junior college coach in Wisconsin, also rolled up a total of 266 victories as well as two conference championships and one sectional title.
His Mundelein teams went 154-124, including 18-14 this season.
"I've always had a whistle and I've always either been a coach or I wanted to be a coach," said Knar, who will remain a dean of students at Mundelein. "When I was little, I dressed like my dad, I followed him around at his practices with my whistle. He let me blow the whistle whenever I wanted. Then, when I was older, I became his team manager.
"I've just always grown up around basketball and this will be a big change because I kind of feel like I've never been anything but a coach."
Overall, Knar has put 26 years into coaching at both the high school and collegiate levels, as an assistant and head coach. Before coming to Mundelein, Knar was a coach at Northridge Prep as well as at Northeastern University.
"It was a very emotional moment when I told everyone at the banquet about my decision, but a lot of thought went into this," Knar said. "I told (Mundelein athletic director) Perry (Wilhelm) about three weeks ago that I was pretty sure I was going to retire and he had always told me that if I started thinking about other things besides coaching that maybe it was the right time to think about retirement.
"I've been thinking about a lot of other things lately."
Knar has been focused on his dad, who is now 77 and has been suffering with dementia. Knar has also been lamenting the lack of opportunities he's had this season to watch his older children play basketball at the collegiate level.
He didn't see any of daughter Toni's games at Missouri S&T this season in person. And he saw only three of son Dickie's games at Marian University, which is only a two-hour drive from Mundelein.
"It makes me feel like, 'Wow, what a bad dad I've been,' " said Knar, whose youngest son Robert finished his senior season at Mundelein this winter as the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,003 points. "It's hard to get away and see (Toni and Dickie, twins who are both college juniors) during basketball season and I want to do that while I still can. And Robert is going to be playing next year, too (at Northern Iowa).
"My own health isn't that good either. I've got heart disease in my family. My dad has already had two heart attacks. I need to lose weight and that's hard for me to do during basketball season. I've got to start taking better care of myself."
While Knar works to take better care of his heart, it still could end up breaking on him. He already knows he's going to be sad come next basketball season. It's not going to be easy for him to be looking in from the outside.
"I'm very close to the kids in our program and I know a lot of the kids in our feeder program and I live in the community and I see these kids all the time," Knar said. "When Nov. 5 comes around and practice starts and I hear those balls bouncing in the gym, it's going to be hard. This is new territory for me and I'll be nervous about how I'll handle that.
"But I'll be keeping busy with my own kids and traveling to see them. This is the right decision."
But is it Knar's final decision?
"Well, I guess you never know. My dad always told me to keep the door open," Knar said. "But as far as I'm concerned right now, I don't plan on doing any Brett Favres (un-retiring) any time soon."
The Knar file
Dick Knar compiled a 154-124 record in his nine seasons as Mundelein's boys basketball coach.